Royals pledge $1 mn to virus fight as IPL faces questions

RCB captain Virat Kohli (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
RCB captain Virat Kohli (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals on Thursday donated $1 million to help fight the coronavirus surge in India, as two umpires reportedly became the latest participants to ditch the world’s richest cricket tournament.

Facing criticism over the decision to hold the event while India suffers thousands of deaths each day, sports officials said the governing body for cricket in India would also announce a major donation.

Rajasthan, whose players include England’s Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes, said it was giving 75 million rupees “towards Covid relief”.

“Players along with team owners and team management have come forward to raise funds,” the team said in a statement.

It said the money would go to buying oxygen equipment and gas “to treat patients when hospital supplies are under strain”.

The eight-team league faces questions over its decision to go ahead in empty stadiums while many hospitals in cities where they play are short of beds and oxygen.

Kolkata Knight Riders’ Australian bowler Pat Cummins this week donated $50,000 to buy oxygen equipment, while Australian player turned television commentator Brett Lee offered a similar amount.

Cummins acknowledged that “there has been quite a bit of discussion over here as to whether it is appropriate for the IPL to continue”.

“I am advised that the Indian government is of the view that playing the IPL while the population is in lockdown provides a few hours of joy and respite each day,” he said.

Australians Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye, England’s Liam Livingstone and Indian star Ravichandran Ashwin have withdrawn from the tournament as the pandemic surge continues.

Top umpires Nitin Menon of India and Paul Reiffel of Australia have became the latest to pull out, citing “personal reasons”, media reports said.

Both are part of the International Cricket Council’s elite umpires panel.

Two members of Menon’s family have tested positive for coronavirus while Reiffel “fears not being able to go home due to the Australian government’s decision banning all flights from India”, an unnamed official from the Board of Control for Cricket told The Indian Express.

But many foreign players are still ready to risk playing in the league.

Royal Challengers Bangalore said they were taking on New Zealand bowler Scott Kuggeleijn as a replacement for Australian Richardson.

Kuggeleijn was a net bowler for reigning champions Mumbai Indians.

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